The Price of Blood in Wenlou Village

Revolutionary Worker #1116, August 26, 2001, posted at

In China, 1.2 million people live in Shangcai County, in the east central part of Henan. At just over 100 million people, Henan is Chinaís most populous province. But just west of the more prosperous coastal provinces which have attracted foreign investment, Henan is one of the countryís poorer areas and has been officially classified by the central government as an "impoverished county." The peasants here get most of their income from growing wheat. The Shangcai bus terminal dispatches daily direct sleeper buses to major cities such as Beijing and Xiían--linking this poor area of the countryside with big urban areas, both economically and epidemiologically.

Shangcai County is where 3,000 people live in the small village of Wenlou.

In the summer of 1999, a physician in Shangcai County discovered one of his patients from Wenlou village had AIDS. Ten other people tested positive for the HIV virus which gives people AIDS. And when samples were taken from 140 more people, over 80 were HIV positive.

He Ling, a middle-aged woman, was the first in Wenlou village to die of AIDS. Then, one after another, within a short time, 10 others died.

He Ling started getting sick in 1997. Her husband, Liu Xin, said, "When she returned from working outside the village, she already couldnít eat many kinds of food, especially cold foods." She tried different kinds of medicines for stomach problems, but she still felt sick. A doctor told her she had inflammation of the stomach, intestine and bowels.

In 1998, He Ling went to many hospitals, both large and small. But none of the doctors knew what was making her so sick and she kept getting worse. In 1999 a physician at the county hospital took a blood sample and found she had AIDS. Four days later He Ling died.

It turns out Wenlou village is known far and wide as a "blood selling village" and He Ling, and the 10 people who died soon after her, had all left their village a few years before to sell their blood!

Ignorant about the deadly HIV virus and how it can spread through the use of unsterile needles, many people from Wenlou had even given up farming because they could make more money by donating blood.

Blood donors from Wenlou traveled to many different blood collection stations in Henan Province. And some even went farther to other provinces to sell their blood. At first they sold whole blood. Later they sold plasma--after the plasma was removed from their blood, their blood was returned to their body with some nutritious fluids added.

From the late 1980s until about 1994, of the 3,000 or so people who lived in Wenlou village, over 1,000 people--older people in their 60s as well as teenagers--left the village to sell their blood. Local government officials passed out leaflets calling the practice "glorious" and saying "it wouldnít harm health."

Some people sold their blood several times on the same day. In one instance, seven people from Wenlou went to a city blood collection station in the city and sold their blood for seven days. They pooled their money and bought an agricultural four-wheel tractor. After they bought the tractor, they tried for an hour to get the tractor started, but they were too weak.

Itís not known how much blood farmers from Wenlou village gave. But if each blood donor gave blood 10 times a month and gave 100 cc of blood each time, then the total amount of blood sold each year by the 1,000 people from Wenlou would be 12 million cc! And all this blood most likely carried the viruses of an uncountable number of diseases, including HIV/AIDS --and was given to other people who needed blood transfusions.

Wenlou village is now considered a "restricted area." Local officials say nobody from outside the village will marry people from Wenlou. There is a lot of ignorance about how HIV and AIDS is spread, so some people think that anything from Wenlou is a source of contagion. Villagers from Wenlou say when they go into the countryside other people donít even give them a place to sit down because they are afraid of getting infected. Some places wonít buy food or vegetables from Wenlou.

He Lingís husband, Liu Xin, doesnít want to have his blood tested because he knows "that disease is incurable." Now Liu Xin takes care of his three children in the blue tile house that was built with the blood He Ling sold. With tears in his eyes, Liu Xin told one journalist, "When I dream, I often see blood. I donít dare think about the past, and I donít dare think about the future. I just have to keep going as long as I live."

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